Saturday, 27 January 2018

"Vienna's Last Jihad" - Impressive novel about the siege of Vienna by the Turks in 1683

First of all: we non-Muslims might know the word Jihad solely as a word for holy war. But for a Muslims it also means the struggle within yourself to be a good person and do the right thing. This book is a bit about both.

I did know the Turks were never able to conquer Vienna. The story goes that is how the croissant came to be: mocking the Turkish army they had food enough to ditch over the city wall (but I think that was during the siege by Suleyman one century prior).

But even when you know which side will win the battle the novel is still a thrilling read because there are many subplots. The book is also a historical correct one. The author included a list of literature he used that would have fitted a scientific thesis. One of the historic people mentioned made me look that one up on Wikipedia: a homosexual French nobleman, very ugly and a sprig, who was denied a French commission into the army because his mother was quite the scandal and decided to join the Austrian enemy instead and became one of the most renowned generals in history. The novel is filled with colourful real historic people even when they are mentioned just barely. Take for instance Kara Mustapha, the Turkish Grand Vizier who leads the army.

So what is the story about?
"Brash and brilliant, twenty year old Mathis Zieglar, Professor of Languages, faces an agonizing choice: should he fight the Turks who take his family hostage and move to destroy Vienna? Or should he betray his army to save his kin? Vienna’s Last Jihad is an historical novel set against the 1683 siege of Vienna.

Europe is balanced on a knife’s edge while Mathis, the man who holds its fate in his hands, struggles against powerful enemies: Father Sistini, a Jesuit who brands him a heretic and drags Mathis’ fiancĂ©e off to the Inquisition; a xenophobic city mob, who wants him dead for protecting a Hungarian soldier; but most dangerous of all, Captain Tyrek, a Muslim chieftain who will kill Mathis’ family unless he spies against his own army. One by one, Tyrek’s agents murder Mathis’ closest associates in an attempt to isolate him. As 138,000 Turks grind down Vienna’s 11,000 defenders with no relief in sight, Mathis’ only chance to save family and country is to use his ability to speak Tartar and the knack he learned as a child to leap, whirl like an unwinding mainspring, and strike."
The Tartars who help the Turks and who Mathis encounters are very cruel people. But that was the times  The Christian side are no saints either. The Jesuits who are a state within the state, the prosecution of the Hungarian protestants and the mighty people who just do what they want. So I cannot detect any xenophobic motives in the writer and that was what I was first a bit worried about.

The book is REALLY GOOD. It is fast pacing and thrilling but you also pick up a lot of knowledge on history and military stuff while reading. There was one thing I thought highly unlikely until I realised what his nickname was his family called him by I can really recommend it. I noticed there are two more books in this series and I certainly hope to read them too.

Review of "Across the Wilderness" - timetravel romance to the Indians of the 1800dreds

Sometimes you prefer some not too complicated reading material so that is why I picked this novel from my NetGalley-review pile. The concept is interesting: the moment a woman falls asleep in her newly bought vintage bed she is transported through time and distance to the mid-1800dreds and the Lakota territories. The moment she falls asleep there she will be home again in modern times.

What to do if you know the men and women around you will suffer greatly in a few years time because you know what happened in history? Would you be completely focussed on the possibility to save them but maybe alter your own time? What happens in Outlander for instance.

It might be a bit much to overanalyse a book that is meant for light reading. But  there are some things I would like to discuss with you:

1) When you write a book situated in American history you might reflect for a moment your global readers from say Japan, Germany or Chile will not immediately have a moment of recognition when you mention Red Cloud, Sitting Bull or Crazy Horse. They might have heard a name but not know in detail. A bit more explanation would help. Also why the Pawnee where so hated.

2) Some things that happen sound off. You will know if someone penetrates you even when you are drunk When the Indian brave is taught a condom is like a  shield between an man and a woman preventing babies he is not that backwards he would not notice when that shield is ripped. The presence of the white man is never explained. Why leave when it is not necessary yet even in her reasoning? What I mean is there are some moments that has me frowning.

3) I really do not like it when a writer splits a book in two volumes. An open ending can be on purpose to the reader will have to fill things in herself or himself but this is just a cut in the story that will continue in another book. Bad marketing trick. There is a hint the heroine does things to try to save her friends but the story suddenly ends.

4) The Indians are really depicted as the noble savages and I wondered if that was a correct interpretation of history. I imagine when I would be transported to the 19th century I would find some habits nasty. I scrolled through the reviews on Amazon and their one reviewer complained about the Christian sauce that was in the story. That they real Lakota were quite different and no saints believing in one God.

Although the book is a romance book and they do sleep together it is a book very suitable for people under 18 as never is it that explicit mentioned in detail. The type of story itself is never becoming very complicated so it might attract more the young adult readers then the people who like a more complicated story.

Sunday, 21 January 2018

A thriller with Muslim villains but also a Muslim who is the true hero of the story: kISmet

A British member of parliament is contacted by a businessman from Yorkshire who tells him that he and his fellow Muslim businessmen in his hometown are extorted by the local imam who is an IS fanatic and that those who refuse end up dead. It does not take long before the MP ends up with a huge target on his back.
We follow him but also a Yorkshire cop who tries to solve the murders.

Interesting to see that most of the people in a role of power: the prime minister, someone high in counter terrorism, the leader of a team of special protection officers, a retired secret agent are all women. And although the bad guys here are Muslims also the true hero is one, and the MP's close friend too.

Only minus point was that I did not bond with Edmund the MP. Maybe because he is a bit easy with other women (not his own one) and I do not like that kind of guys.

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

Free today: the debut novel of an INDIAN writer: "The girl from Rostov" - genre: spy /lovestory

Using someone else's review on Amazon: The Girl From Rostov is an international spy thriller with an element of love that begins in Russia, but quickly moves to India. Maya, the orphaned niece of a Russian gangster, spy, and illicit arms dealer must find out who killed her uncle, Majid, and why. She meets Shamar, the son of a millionaire who has his own dark secrets from the past. Maya was the only ray of beauty that God allowed into Sharma’s small and dreary world.

In his debut novel, 19 year old author Shitij Sharma of India weaves the characters together in a masterful way. Although Sharma uses names of characters sparingly, and the reader often must go back to figure out who was talking or who was in a particular scene, the connection of characters is intriguing.

The Girl From Rostov is a journey into the dark and often chaotic world of gangsters involved in espionage. The life of one or another gangster becomes an obstacle and must be eliminated in order for any opposing gangster to remain on top and in control. One who commits misdeeds born of greed gives no thought to the value of a life snuffed out and sheds no tears of regret. Yet, there are scenes of tenderness and love and pangs of heartbreak when another person’s life does matter; when a person is valued and cherished and lost.
A diary, introduced early in the story, becomes a vital, sought-after possession. Whoever would own it may discover the location of a warehouse stockpiled with stolen arms and weapons of mass destruction that could be sold to the highest bidder making the owner of the diary extremely rich. Suspense builds when it is discovered that Maya, innocently involved in the world of gangsters, has the diary.
Resolve to the story brings an unexpected turn of events. Who ends up with the diary and how he obtained it takes a moment or two to figure out. The reader has to connect the dots.

You can buy it here on Amazon: